Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sewing Lessons: Doll Pinafore

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I took over my mother's Sewing class for one afternoon. My idea was to make a doll dress in a day. Her student had already been hand-sewing and working with her mother's sewing machine, but I think that in working on a project from start to finish, she learned some new things. And if she did not, at least she got a doll apron out of it:) First we found the view in the pattern that we wanted to use (McCalls 2609), and circled it. Then we went through and circled the pattern layout, the pieces we would need, and the instructions sections we would use.

Then we went to the scrap box. We tried several scraps and settled on a black and pink polka-dot. It was a real departure from what was shown on the pattern cover, but it was a cute idea, and actually it was the only fabric we had enough of to make this pinafore. We could have started with a nice piece of yardage, but for me doll dresses are traditionally made of leftovers from other projects. Besides, it is frugal.

She found the pieces she would need and started to cut them out.

We had to determine the direction of the grain of each scrap. Fabric comes with a "grain" - you can see it or find it by stretching the fabric. Fabric stretches from side to side, and on the diagonal (bias) it really stretches. You know you have the grain if it does not stretch at all (usually parallel to the woven edge or "selvage"). This is important when using scraps...

...because you want to get those "grainline" arrows to line up with your grain, so that the doll dress will not act funny when you sew it together. If you do not take time to do this, you will have pieces stretch in the wrong places and be very sad at the outcome!

The student starts to pin the pattern to the fabric. Also, notice the use of quilting pins for sewing. They are so much easier to grasp than regular dressmaker's pins.

After cutting the piece out, go over it and find all the places to mark. Some will be a notch, some a dot. Sometimes you cannot get the notches cut out precicely or neatly. I learned to clip in where there was a notch, as you see above. It is actually easier and quite precise.

The first seam is the shoulder seam.

I learned something about being a sewing teacher: the student was having difficulty maneuvering the pieces through the machine, especially around curves. She had a hard time getting the seam allowance straight. It finally occurred to me that since she was left-handed, I had to get her project to the other side of the presser foot, opposite of what is shown above.

It was a lot easier for her after that! When sewing, the edge of the fabric should follow the edge of the presser foot, or the particular line on the sewing machine that the pattern specifies.

After sewing two bodices (one lining) we put them together. It was important to read the instructions so we could make sure that we pressed up the edges of the lining, so that later on we can have a neater finish on the inside of the pinafore.

She learned to maneuver an inside curve, the neckline.

Here we have one of my favorite tools- a handy dandy stick that came in a bag of fiberfil, meant to be a help in stuffing craft projects. I find it a help in stuffing anything...

...like stuffing fabric through a shoulder seam to try and get the bodice turned inside out. Not an easy feat!

Here you see the lined bodice, all pressed...

...and ready for the skirt. The skirt of the pinafore is made of lined "petals."

She learned to sew outside curves on a sewing machine.
The finished skirt, with the "petals" basted together and ready to sew to the bodice. We pressed, pressed, pressed as we went!
The bodice sewn to the skirt. The inside lining (the part that was pressed up) is now hand-sewn down over the skirt seam, to hide it.

Here is the doll modeling the pinafore. This project took about four hours from start to finish.

My student pointed out that if she tacked the skirt together, she could get a different look and perhaps even use it as a little sundress for the doll.

Since I had a doll to model it, I thought I would show you one of my projects from years ago. This Regency gown was from a pattern I made up all by myself. I made some to sell but there were some difficult bits to my design that made it too tedious to sew for sales.

Being not too far from doll-playing days myself, I wanted a gown that was easy to get on a doll. This gown is fully lined, French seamed, and opens completely in the back. There are no fussy snaps, but Velcro all the way down the opening. The sleeves are fully lined- straight sleeves on the inside and puffed on the outside. That way the doll's plastic fingers would not catch in that puffed sleeve (always an annoyance!).
Eyelet makes such a beautiful and easy gown (no hems!), and there are tucks in the skirt lining.
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